Address Delivered Before The Catskill Turtle Club
By The Late James D. Pinckney.
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin
Once more we are met to celebrate the birthday of Freedom, and of our Society. Not in the proud temple, reared by man, to listen to the polished sentences and rounded periods of the gifted and eloquent, and to the swelling tones of the organ, or the martial notes of the trumpet; but in that house not built by human hands, whose pavement laid, and whose arched ceiling was spread by the Architect of the Universe; for our music the free air of Heaven, playing its symphonies in the tree-tops, and the ripple of the wealth-bearing waves of the beautiful Hudson; and our eloquence an unrestrained converse and joyous outpouring of sentiment to each other, without deceit or guile.
And now let us cast a glance about us, and see who of those who one year ago participated in our festivities, are missing at this meeting. Surely, it is a matter of joy that so many familiar faces are again gathered around this board. Many of us have remained together during the interval—others have been separated from us by trifling distances—and is some instances "Seas have broad between us roared"—yet they have come again, to mingle their voices with ours upon this National Festival.
All, however, are not here. Business, or prior engagements, or choice, detain many, whose presence cannot well be spared; but wherever they may be, at this hour, they have our warmest wishes for health, prosperity and happiness. We rejoice that all are yet in the land whose freedom we this day commemorate.
All—save one* (*CHARLES SEAMAN); one voice, which was heard in our midst, is silent, on earth, forever. The green turf, on whose surface we now tread, covers the form of one who, a short year past, was of us, and with us. His appointed hour came, while it was yet morning, and he went the way which he may not return, but which we must all follow.
Peace—peace to his dust; and while we breathe a sigh to his memory, let our comfort be in the confident hope that he is now rejoicing in a higher degree of liberty—a fuller measure of Freedom—a freedom from the toils, and cares, and sorrows of this troubled and transitory life.
Gentlemen—four years have passed since the formation of the Catskill Turtle Club, and its founder still remains to preside over its destinies, to rejoice in its prosperity, and to superintend its culinary preparations. It was a bright idea of his, (and evidenced a deep research) to found a Turtle Club. The Delaware Indians believe that this world is supported by an enormous skilliput, and that earthquakes ensue when he shifts his feet or shakes his tail. Had "CHARLES FOX*(*JAMES BREASTED) belonged to the tribe, he could not have chosen a more suitable emblem of stability than this foundation of the earth.
Again the Turtle is significant of a pleasant season, such as we now enjoy. Even SOLOMON—and it would be decidedly unfashionable to question his wisdom—in describing the beauties of the early Spring, and in inviting his beloved one to taste its delights and enjoyments, uses the following language: "The flowers appear on the Earth; the Time of singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land." I am aware that some will insist that the turtle here meant, was feathered songster—but I know not by what reasoning they arrive at such a conclusion; all manner of singing birds had already been mentioned, and it is full as probable that a skilliput in ancient days discoursed eloquent music, as it is certain that in our time the bull-frogs of JOHN DUBOIS’S band bathe the shores of Rams Horn Creek in harmonious melody. At any rate, it is safer to avoid the root of all sectarianism, and to understand the Book as we read it, and therefore believe that a turtle means a turtle, instead of a pigeon.
And the turtle, too, is emblematic of Love. GOLDSMITH, one of the sweetest poets that ever wrote, makes it a type of pure affection, when he says:
"And Love is still in an empty sound,
The modern fair one’s jest;
On earth unknown, or only found
To warm the Turtle’s nest."
It may be urged, too, that GOLDSMITH did not mean what he said, and in proof of the fact, it may be maintained that as turtles are cold-blooded animals, their nest are not likely to be warm. In answer to this, I would call upon our worthy President to testify that he has seen a nest of turtles, with but two in it, not only quite warm, but almost too hot to hold them both. I repeat, then, that both SOLOMAN and GOLDSMITH spoke and wrote understandingly, and that criticism or skepticism can not more convert a turtle into a bird, than good turtle soup can be made of a sheep’s head and pluck.
Thus, then, I have endeavored to prove by higher authority than my own assertion, that the badge of our Club is an emblem of Stability, Harmony and Love. If I have failed fully to substantiate it, let the course and conduct of the members supply the lack of argument; let them continue to live in love, to act in harmony, and stability must ensue.
Gentlemen—the individual who so eloquently addressed you at the last anniversary, adverted to the brighter days of Stauchy’s greatness and glory; and he struck a chord which vibrated to the inmost recesses of my heart. The scenes and incidents of early life started up in freshness from the dark corners of memory, and I again lived over the happy days of youth. The fair faces, the voluptuous forms, and the linsey woolsey habiliments of Stauchy’s virginity, passed before my mental vision; the soft notes of Money-musk from the fiddle of good old BALTUS MILLER rang in my ears, and the tread of heel-and-toe, pigeon-wing and double-shuffle seemed again to sake the every rafters of my brain. I remember the good dame HART, and the Dutch heart in her bosom, (whose Worst was her best to be had in miles about,) and the flavor of the apple-jack was fresh upon my tongue. I remember every old tale of spooks, having appeared near the site of the Stauchy Church, or peeped from the windows of the deserted Manor House.
But when he came to speak of DERRICK VAN RUNT, my feelings well nigh overcome me, and I was forced to take a snuff at the soup-kettle to revive my sensibilities.
Alas! poor DERRICK! First in the frolic or the fight—who never refused protection to the fair, or to take "a snifer" with a friend. How often have I gazed in silent wonder at his inimitable execution of Old BROTE, in his stocking feet; or tin admiration of his prowess, as he assayed to do battle in favor of injured innocence, his manly breast filled with virtuous indignation, and covered with a red flannel shirt!
But the Church and the Manor House are long gone; honest DERRICK VAN RUNT is at rest in the apple orchard; the days of the glory of Stauchy have departed, and ICHABOD is written on its walls. Yet long will its Quiltings, and its Apple-Cuts, and its Pig Shaves live in remembrance—for
The last ray of feeling and life must depart
Ere I cease to remember the days of BILL HART.
Excuse me, my friends, this digression, but I could not refrain from stepping aside to revisit, in imagination, the scenes of by-gone joys. If my friend, "the Setter," were here, he would forgive me, I am quite certain; for although Time had pretty freely scattered the evidences of early piety among his locks, he could not but participate in the recollection as he did in the enjoyment, of the happy hours now fled forever.
Exceedingly pleasant have been the four years since the Club, of which we have the honor, and are proud, to be members, was first established. Few in numbers, was first established. Few in numbers, in its infancy, Fox Creek and BURGETT’S Island alone witnessed its joyous meetings, a common sized turtle was sufficient for the sacrifice, and a quart jug could well contain the liquid oblations required at its festivals. But it has flourished and grown mighty under the kind and fostering care of its worthy President, and has waxed stronger and stronger in popular favor, until it has become necessary to set limits to its numerical capacity.
ROGER’S Island has been made vocal with our rejoicings, and the Mayor of Herring-town has deigned to smile complacently, as he tendered to the Turtle Club the freedom of the city in a tin kettle. We have been cheered in our aquatic excursions by the beauty and fashion of Bompies’ Hook, and the bald-headed eagle has screamed his greetings as we treaded in serpentine windings of the magnificent Ram’s Horn.
The extremities of the Earth are laid under contribution to minister to our wants and wished, and enjoyments. For us the purple fruit of sunny vineyards of France is crushed; for us the aromatic herb of Cuba and of "Old Kentuck" is grown and cured, and twisted, and cut; for us the rich beds of Weathersfield are despoiled of their pungent produce; for us the rip juice of the blushing apple is converted into the pleasant acid; for us the silver-coated herring is drawn from his deep blue home—
"Down where the joyful sunbeams never fell,
where ocean’s unrecorded monsters dwell."
and for us the turtle is roused from his oozy couch on the shores of PEETCHIES’ Lake, on the banks of the Cauterskill, and in the far-off quagmires of KEMP’S Fly, and the Great Embought.
To join in our festivities, Hatters have left the planking-kettle for the soup-kettle; Tailors have forsaken herring-stitch for herring and onions; Justices have abandoned litigation, to do justice to the cookery of "CHARLES FOX"; and Surrogates have left the estates of the dead unadministered, to present their claims in the final distribution of the steaks of a departed skilliput.
All ranks and conditions of men have striven to pay honors to our association, and the Club has been the admiration as well as of the upper-crust of society, as of the humble fisherman who plies his apostolic vocation on the "Sand-plauchy."
Surely, these manifestations are pleasant to our hearts, and soothing to our souls, as DALLEY’S Magic Plaster to a scalded shin. Let us, then, strive to merit the good will of all men and women, and persevere in well-doing, until our Society shall occupy a niche in the Temple of Fame, far above the ancient and honorable fraternity of Free-masonry, the independent order of Odd Fellows, or the Calathumpian Band.
Upon the return of each anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, may we be found foremost in doing honor to the day.—Although other countries may have given birth to some of us; though one may have first seen the light in Scotia’s flowery vales; though another may have had his nativity in the green island of the Shamrock; or a third in our mother land, "merry England," yet here may we meet in a common brotherhood. Here, under the folds of the star-studded banner, long and broad enough to cover and shelter the wanderer from every nation, and of every kindred and tongue, may we be found, with one voice and one heart, rejoicing in the return of that day when Columbia assumed a name and a place among the nations of the earth; and if we may not all be permitted to glory in the name of American citizens, we each and all have the high and proud privilege of exclaiming: "Thank Heaven, I, too, am a member of the CATSKILL TURTLE CLUB."
EXTRACTS FROM A CARRIER’S ADDRESS,
To the Patrons of the Catskill Democrat, January 1st, 1847.
It is to be regretted that Mr. Pinckney has neglected to preserve any of the numerous productions of his versatile pen, which have been so widely scattered that we have been much disappointed in our efforts to procure many that we known are extant, and shall be compelled to conclude our reproduction of his literary efforts with the following extracts. These are now republished for the double purpose of showing his easy powers of versification, (though they are by no means his best) and to revive some good-natured local political allusions to men and events:
Father Time—that old fellow
Who paints the leaves yellow,
And turns our hair gray and our apple-jack mellow—
Has brought to your door
The News-boy once more,
A boon form your bounty, kind friends, to implore;
To tender this thanks in a simple address,
And pray that your shadows may never grow less.
‘Tis the fashion, you all of you very well know,
When the Carrier, on New Year’s morn calls for his "dough,"
To treat you to one or two columns of rhyme—
The custom’s an old one, as ancient as Time,
At least, I’ve no doubt that the thing has been done
Ever since Anno Domini One;
So therefore must I
Scratch my noodle and try,
Though the last years has been most uncommonly dry.
And alluding, in a happy vein, to the exploits of Gens. TAYLOR and SCOTT, in Mexico, Mr. PINCKNEY wrote as follows of Gen. SCOTT’S occupation of the Mexican capital:
But Scott, having orders to Mexico MUST go,
Though the road was a bloody one, through Churubusco;
He turned no aside till he came to the walls
And the gate of the City, in sight of the "Halls,"’
Of the splendor of which we have heard many rumors,
The HOMESTEAD, ‘tis said, of the Old Montezumas;
When, after short parley, he sat himself down,
To rest for a while, in the heart of the town,
Where our soldiers the streets with impunity roam,
And follow the callings they followed at home.
In the very beat rooms of their very best houses,
Some Yankee is found cutting jackets and trousers—
In the midst of their boasted magnificent Plaza,
May be seen the itinerant vendor of razors—
In the shire where the Mexican knelt to his saints,
A down-Eastern merchant sells putty and paints;
And, perhaps, in the shade of a nunnery’s cloisters,
Some Shrewsbury fisherman opens his oysters.
But we’ll leave our brave fellows to rest on their honors,
To tilt with the Dons, and make love to the Donnas,
While we turn to affairs of our County and State,
And matters of politics briefly relate:--
By all of my readers ‘twill be recollected,
When the Whigs and the Barn-Burners formed an alliance,
And the old-fashioned Democrats set at defiance,
And they, doubtless, have very good cause to remember
The havoc it worked us the first of November;
But it seems that, last season, the Whigs waxing stout,
The terms of the compact declined carrying out;
They thought they’d been choused of their share of the bounty,
And believed that, alone, they could carry the County.
On one thing, however, they stuck to their faith.
And on THAT they declared they would "go to their death,"
Resolved the, united, by hook or by crook,
At least they’d succeed in defeating "the Duke,"
And ‘twas thought, for a time, that by selling and buying,
And bargain and trick’ry, and pretty stiff lying,
That they had their favorite scheme brought about,
And each Barn-Burning jaw was agape for a shout,
They firmly believed they’d elected friend VAN,
(By the bye, of the lot, he’s perhaps the best man)
And he lived in the hope, for some twenty-four hours,
That he had attained jurisdiction and powers.
But HODEBOOM’S prospects were brighter and stronger,
And he clung to the hope of the ermine much longer—
Yet, alas! the bright blaze of his glory to quench,
The Sullivan news brought him down from the bench,
And he found that no "Powers" were attaching to HIM,
Save the doubtful ATACHMENT, perhaps, of Squire JIM.
And thus the grand object for which they had fought,,
And bargained and cheated, resulted in nought;
The Democrats ALL wouldn’t swallow their stuff,
And (to use an expression quite common in bluff)
The card which they held hadn’t quite enough spots on
To win at the game which they played against WATSON.
* * * * * *
Did my limits permit, it would please me full well,
Much other political matter to tell:--
In the race of Attorney, how RUFUS and THE leg;
Of all his competitors, KIND, MARKS and PELEG;
And how, against one of their very best men,
In one of the Districts we carried Judge PENN,
And how, in the OTHER, they wouldn’t have beat us,
Had not the "Recorder" went in for IRETUS;
How the Whigs, had it not been that voters they lacked in,
Would have sent to the Senate Judge BROMMY VAN V___N,
And, though it was stoutly insisted that PLATT
Lived out of the County, shaved notes, and all that,
The hard-fisted yeomanry knew what was meant
By the humbugging story of "one-half per cent,"
And they thought that the tale was a little too rank,
From a fellow concerned in the Greene County Bank,
For the time was quite fresh in their memories, still,
When a half per cent, took half the face of the bill.